Poll: Worldwide Infant Mortality

The debate on health care (sort of) has dominated the news over the past week. On Wednesday I will post something on the health care debate, but until then please participate in the poll. Of course you can Google this, but don’t do that. Go with your gut instinct.


18 Responses to Poll: Worldwide Infant Mortality

  1. Tesvich, SJ says:

    For those having trouble in deciding which country it is, I’ll give you a hint.
    The country (in this list) with the highest infant mortality rate is the one that tries to save the life of many more premature babies and reports them as an infant death after live birth rather than declaring them stillborn or miscarriages.
    It also happens to be the country with the technology to save many more premature babies.

  2. Giovanni says:

    Are we counting abortions? Because in that case I would like to vote again.

  3. Matt Talbot says:

    Tesvich – do you have a link to those stats?

  4. Matt Talbot says:

    Actually, I see that your nake links to an article – thanks.

  5. Matt Talbot says:

    oops – should be “…NAME links to…”

  6. AF says:

    Man, we are either really in the know or really pessimistic.

  7. Just a contextual comment on stats as stats:
    USA is probably the most accurate in its statistical
    gathering methodologies. With less developed
    countries receding in both abilities and capacities
    and in the case of dictatorships/Communism,
    politics dictates all statiscal disseminations.

    So, I wouldn’t place any bets on other nations’
    reporting results ON ANY subject matter!
    Least of all the Communist countries: they in fact
    do not have any real developed infrastructure
    to do so, nor is their Accounting Profession
    as such, professional, if at all, in operational

    Lastly, contextualization of results are always
    mandatory: USA demographics dwarf most nations,
    hence our death rates and other rates are THEREFORE
    in relation to what?!!!

    Peace, virgil

  8. Tesvich, S.J.,

    The sources you cite are ideologically driven and misleading. In fact, they raise more questions than they answer.

    Take a look at the CDC study. Notice the racial and ethnic disparities. Notice the extremely high incidence of premature birth rates in the U.S. What is behind these statistics? These factors, more than accounting differences, explain the ranking of the U.S. in the world community.


    The same huge gap between the U.S. and other nations is found in statistics related to youth violence, substance abuse, homelessness, and intentional deaths.

    There is something going on in American society that doesn’t take place in other societies. We need to be less defensive and more curious.

    As for infant mortality, what is the objective reality that drives these statistics? Different accounting measures are an insufficient explanation.

  9. Gerald L Campbell,

    “The sources you cite are ideologically driven and misleading.”

    How is the CBO ideologically driven and misleading?

    “There is something going on in American society that doesn’t take place in other societies.”

    Very true. And parents are concerned: http://www2.med.umich.edu/prmc/media/newsroom/details.cfm?ID=1247

    I would never claim that health care doesn’t need fixing. But I sense some alarm bells might be aimed at speeding up change that might do more harm than good.

  10. Fr. Brown,

    I was referring to the article by the NCPPR. Sorry. I referenced the CDC report.

    Yes, some parents are concerned. Yet, for too many, their concern is not unmixed. Statistics on family integrity support my hesitancy.

    Apart from being concerned, we as a nation must learn to address the question “why?”. For instance:

    — Why is America’s homicide rate 12 per 100,000 while France’s rate is 1?
    — Why is America’s rape rate 118 per 100,000 while France’s is 17?
    — Why is America’s imprisonment rate 426 per 100,000 while France’s is 40?
    — Why is America’s AIDS rate 20 per 100,000 while France’s is 7?

    — Why is it that, while 54,000 Americans were killed under combat conditions during the twelve years of the Vietnam War, 384,262 Americans commited suicide during a comparable twelve year period at home under peacetime conditions?

    — Why is it that every two years more Americans are killed by other Americans in America than were killed by the enemy during the entire twelve years of the Vietnam War?

    The question “why”? has practical implications. It is not just a question asked in philosophy classes. Apart from heart disease and cancer, the major causes of potential life loss before age 65 stem from behavior. But what is the root cause of dysfunctional behavior? Why do Americans behave the way they do? Frankly, we do not know. Nor do we exhibit much curiosity to know. The methodologies of the social sciences do not ask the question “why?”. Yet they dominate inquiry.

    As for the health care reform effort, perhaps there is an appearance of moving too fast. But the substance of the measures in the various bills have been worked on by congressional committees for three years or more. The politics and the inevitable cutting and pasting is another matter, I agree. But, things are not as thoughtless as they might appear.

  11. Tesvich, SJ says:

    Gerald L. Campbell-

    “The sources you cite are ideologically driven”

    Everyone has a perspective from which they approach the numbers they see. Dismissing some as ideological, perhaps because they don’t fit our preconceived ideology, is not a argument. It is a refusal to think about what the other presents.

    As for your laundry list of how America is worse than France, there are plenty of other indicators that show America doing better: birth rate, economic productivity, religious practice for starters.

    If we want to honestly ask “why?” we should 1) admit honestly what are biases are and 2) not assume that human nature or human cultures are infinitely malleable.

    A good place to start a comparison of France and the U.S. would be from the French perspective: “Democracy in America” by Alexis de Tocqueville. One caution though, Tocqueville was ideologically driven: he strongly favored democracy.

    John Brown SJ-

    Thanks for the link. We are not, and never will be, a perfect country. But a land where poor people are much more likely to be obese than hungry is doing at least some things right.

  12. Gerald L. Campbell,

    “Why do Americans behave the way they do? Frankly, we do not know. Nor do we exhibit much curiosity to know. The methodologies of the social sciences do not ask the question ‘why?’. Yet they dominate inquiry.”

    You are VERY right here. This exact concern (though more for everyone than only for Americans) is what sparked my original openness to becoming a Jesuit.

    I am very glad to have read your comments. One thing that concerns me about this latest push for healthcare reform is not so much the speed, but the actual content – which I admit that I haven’t had time to really research.

    I am sure many very intelligent people have been working on this for a long time. My issue is that I may disagree with what these very intelligent people think is a good fix. Some of these very intelligent people think that it is good for a woman (or 15 year old girl) to have the right to choose to abort the life of her child in the womb. And some of them think tax dollars from everyone should pay for that.

    Then my concern for speed comes in. It looks as though the strategy is to hurry up and push reform through so that those of us who disagree won’t have the opportunity to notice just how against our principles the reform actually is until the system is already in place.

    Maybe I’m a little paranoid, but I’ve grown to distrust politics and politicians in general.

  13. Fr. Tesvich,

    You are correct. Sometimes it is a refusal to think about what another says that inclines them to disagree. No question. But sometimes disagreement flows from having reflected on what they have said too.

    My original reason for commenting was to say that the U.S. global standing on infant mortality rates cannot be explained away by an appeal to different accounting methods. As CDC indicates, there are profound reasons that underlie the high rate of infant mortality in the U.S., racial and ethic disparities being among them. These reasons are not well understood.

    I agree. There are different sets of indicators that place the U.S. in a favorable light relative to other countries. But my point wasn’t to praise France at the expense of the U.S., even though I like French fries.

    My point was to illustrate the extent to which dysfunctional behavior poses a serious challenge to the U.S. One of the major problems with this is that we don’t have a way of addressing causation. To ask “why?” in the social science is to ask about correlations, not causes. Causation (that which makes a thing come into being) stands outside the purview of the social sciences. Yet, they dominate discussion.

    It is this methodological prejudice that makes it difficult to comprehend not only dysfunctional behavior but also the underlying dynamics of infant mortality. Infant mortality is not merely a medical or an accounting problem. It has deep roots in our cultural and our history.

    Like you, I am fond of de Tocqueville, especially his appreciation for mediating institutions. But the diversity he saw no longer exists today. Formally, there is a great homogeneity of ideas, assumptions, methods, and procedures among institutions. Institutions today tend to stifle individual creativity rather than nurture it. There is a distrust of diversity.

    As for obese people — well, I’m not quite sure how they are the beneficiaries of whatever it is we have done right! Perhaps they, like the homeless, are testing us to our very core. Perhaps they are saying … “where were you …..?”

    Thanks for the pleasant exchange.

  14. Fr. Brown,

    I’m glad my comment had some resonance with you.

    Rest assured, my concern about these issues transcends America too, although I know a little more about “the U.S.” than “Somalia”. But, as you intimate, there are universal and transcendent considerations intertwined in all this.

    This may sound a little “off the wall” but have you reflected long and hard on the practical implications of the spiritual works of mercy for alleviating dysfunctional behavior? We know a great deal about the corporal works of mercy but very little about the impact of spiritual relations. Yes, I know, Charity is a theological virtue. But can the insights which are revealed therein be made a part of an evolving secular discussion. Can we enrich the language we have without having to appeal to a “language” that is foreign?

    I am persuaded that spiritual alienation is the root cause of homelessness, substance abuse, youth violence, and other like behavior. The antidote for spiritual alienation is Love. So, what is the nature of the dialectic that can be unleashed from this insight? Can dialectic be used as a force for reconciliation?

    How far can language and leadership go to bring about an evolution of human consciousness in the world? (de Chardin) Reflect on that for a time and let me know what you think. Feel free to avail yourself of my email that must be listed with this comment somewhere.

    As for health care, there will be differing judgments. For me it is a prudential matter and, like most such judgments, it involves the principle of the lesser of two evils. Some things I may not like. Other I will. But the principle purpose as I see it are twofold: 1) to bring controls to an “out of control” insurance industry; and 2) to provide quality insurance to as many Americans as possible. It’s a very simple bill in purpose, albeit detailed and complicated.

    To date, there are no provisions to fund abortion in the Senate Bill (Senate HELP Committee). But even if such provisions were to appear, I believe there are other ways to reduce the incidence of abortion. (Abortion will not be made illegal).

    The trick is to influence the decision of the potential mother. To do that, there are mechanical means (economic, health care, etc.) but also spiritual means — providing a sense of belonging. At this level, it is we who are being tested. Are we willing to reach out and love one another? Can we alleviate the aloneness that tears at the fabric of our society? Can we create a loving ethos which will transfigure our society. Can we reduce the impact of the autonomous individual?

    It is from this evolving ethos — and an individual sense of belonging — that the antidote to spiritual alienation will be found to flow. Through love, the root cause of abortion can and will be alleviated.

    Yes, the health care debate is beginning to speed up. The speed at this point is more about “cut and paste” than design. This bill has not been dreamt up in the last several months. This stuff has been laying around for a long while awaiting the appropriate time and place to be used. So it is not as careless as it might appear.

    Even then, there is a great deal of experimentation involved in legislating. Things have to be tried to determine their practical value. If they don’t work out right, the people will rise from the dead and strike fear into the hearts and minds of Members of Congress. The Congress will then have to make changes to accommodate that feedback. Politics in America is incremental. It doesn’t hop along like a jack rabbit.

    Yet there is a good reason for distrust. The American system is designed with skepticism in mind. It is heavily weighted against action. But at some point we have to learn to be vulnerable in our lives and relations. Vulnerability allows us to move beyond fear and love one another. Vulnerability lies at the core of the spirit of community.

    My old boss once said: Trust, but verify.

  15. Just to clarify how to address one another on this blog, none of the Jesuits who write for the blog itself are priests yet. Thus, we are not “Father” but just our names. We don’t go by “Brother” either since that is a separate Jesuit calling.

  16. Nathan,

    Thanks for the clarification.

  17. Gerald L. Campbell,

    “I am persuaded that spiritual alienation is the root cause of homelessness, substance abuse, youth violence, and other like behavior.”

    I totally agree. In fact, I found myself nodding in agreement at nearly everything you’ve written thus far (though I am not expert enough to have verified the healthcare reform plan for myself, at the suggestion of your old boss). I’ll email a few thoughts as it seems like we may have gotten away from Jeff Johnson’s original thought provoking poll.

    Christ’s Peace,
    (not yet Fr.) John Brown SJ

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